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Shutdown Corner Playoff Projection – Pittsburgh Steelers sneak into the postseason

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Every week, we try to project what the playoff bracket will look like in January. To sift through who is for real and will make a postseason push, and who will fade out of the playoff picture down the stretch. It's important to note this is our ever-changing prediction of how we think things will play out and not necessarily a current plugging-in of teams with the corresponding records.

Think of it as "bracketology" for the pigskin set.

Last year, the referees cost the Packers a playoff bye with a call in the end zone. You don't see the same thing happening to the Patriots this season?
All of this whining about that non-call on Monday Night Football has become a little too dramatic for me. What is the golden rule of sports? Never leave a game in the hands of an official. Yes, it looked like a blown call, but if New England’s defenders tackle Carolina's Ted Ginn Jr. before he scored on a 25-yard touchdown reception with 59 seconds remaining, the non-call may not be an issue. New England has six more regular season games, which is plenty of time to negate what occurred on Monday.

So the Steelers are the team with the AFC sixth-seed hot potato this week?
Yes, but only because Pittsburgh has won two straight games, and Ben Roethlisberger had 367 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Detroit Lions. That being said, Cleveland could knock off Pittsburgh on Sunday, and we will be back at square one. The only division tougher to figure out is the NFC North (thanks, Lions).

The 49ers had a lock on that #1 NFC wild card for the longest time. At 6-4, now they're in danger of falling out of the picture. Can they stop the slide?
San Francisco’s defense is still strong, which is why the 49ers are still in the mix. The 49ers were defeated by a combined four points in their past two games, and they have a favorable schedule remaining. San Francisco will face Washington, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Arizona. Except for Seattle, San Francisco is poised to emerge victorious in those games. The 49ers should easily lock up a playoff spot with an 11-5 record.

What gives the Bengals the edge over the Colts for the third spot?
Mostly, my belief that Indianapolis cannot continue winning without receiver Reggie Wayne or production from running back Trent Richardson. So far, Colts running back Donald Brown has made up for Richardson’s lack of productivity, while receiver T.Y. Hilton has been sporadic. It is just hard to believe this smoke and mirrors show can continue.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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